From Pipe Dream to Reality – Aotea Early Learning Centre Here to Stay

Once a pipe dream that developed into a mission for the Aotea Education Trust, it took two years of intense work with support from expert Bonnie Henare to push the project over the start line, running on a probationary period over the last year.

Last week this pipe dream turned into a reality for island families when the centre received its full license from the MoE.

Local children at the ECE with staff member Ebony Kite-Bell

Being licensed as an ECE centre in New Zealand means that the centre has met or exceeded the regulatory standards, ensuring that the facilities, curriculum and staffing are all suitable and safe for young children, providing a solid foundation for early learning.

A licensed centre is eligible to receive government funding and must adhere to specific funding rules set by the MoE. Regular reviews by the Education Review Office ensure the quality of education and care remains high.

The centre is licensed for up to 30 children, based on a 1:10 adult to child ratio, but on a normal day is 1:7 which far exceeds the MoE bare minimum requirements.

The AELC has something unique about it though, normally ECE’s are run by businesses our ECE is community-owned, run by Aotea Education Trust using the Playcentre building.

A partnership not seen in other areas of New Zealand, but a solution to fit a small rural island community like ours.

The ECE runs Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 8:30am-4:30pm during school terms in the Playcentre building on Kaitoke Lane.

Playcentre still runs on Monday and Friday 9:15am to 1:15pm for parents with children age 0-6 years, and visiting families are always welcome.

After only a year of opening, it’s safe to say the centre has had an impact on the lives of young families on the island, including positive outcomes for child development, parent’s mental health and easing financial pressures on young families. The centre has also provided skilled jobs and opportunities.

“The ECE has enriched mine and my sons life, allowing both of us to grow and develop, providing support and a sense of belonging on the island. It has allowed me, as a mum, to work, which means we have been able to live on the island.” says local mum Nichole Lill.

The ECE is a true testament to the community thinking outside the box, utilising existing resources, together with a relentess amount of Barrier volunteer effort, grit and determination.

Thanks goes to an endless list of individuals who contributed through the decades including the Local Board, Nikki Watts, Luke Coles, Fenella Christian, Hannah Gale, Aotea Island Playcentre including Deb Kilgallon and Mallory Thompson, ECE staff past and present, Anna McGoram, Truus van der Wel, Ebony Kite-Bell, Kathy Sutherland, Brooke Green, and Liz Wislang.

For more information please call 09 4290 600 during the opening hours as above.